MedFlight911 Air Ambulance on Caregiving: Communicating with the Doctor
Issues surrounding caregiving are important to us at MedFlight911 in part because many of the patients who use our worldwide air ambulance service require some form of convalescent care or end-of-life care. Last month, we wrote about hospice. Today I’d like to focus on partnering with the physician to get the best care for your loved one.
Partnering with the physician begins with finding the right doctor. View your selection of a doctor as you would a job interview for an important position in your business – you need to feel comfortable with and confident in the doctor. Ask questions:
- What are the doctor’s credentials and experience level?
- Where does the doctor have hospital privileges?
- What is the doctor's availability in the evenings and on weekends? In many practices, the physicians in the office rotate – so if there are four doctors, your loved one’s doctor will be on call every fourth night. However, some practices hire other doctors to cover nights, weekends and vacations. You need to decide which style feels right for you.
- Does the doctor make home visits? Although it is rare, some physicians visit patients in their home. Some medical practices have a traveling nurse or physician’s assistant who may be available for visits. You don’t know until you ask.
Once you have found “Dr. Right” you need to ensure that you get the most out of your time with him or her. Research has shown that on average a patient has 7 to 16 minutes with their doctor. Every minute counts. According to Strength for Caring, a resource guide for caregivers, you should leave the appointment with the following information:
- The diagnosis and seriousness of it
- Tests needed and why
- Whether a second opinion would be helpful
- Treatment options and risks of treatment
- Recommendations for integrative therapies
- Medications needed
- Possible adverse reactions from the medications
- Additional symptoms to look for
- Any restrictions on diet, alcohol, or activity (including driving)
- When an improvement should be expected
- If and when a follow-up visit should be scheduled
- If insurance doesn’t cover the doctor’s preferred treatment, is there an acceptable substitute?
How do you get all of this information in less than 20 minutes? Here are some suggestion on how to make the visit more productive and less stressful:
Keep a journal of your loved one’s symptoms – Write down when they began, their frequency and what, if anything, reduces or eliminates them.
Make a list of your loved one’s medications – Include every medication, prescription and over-the-counter. For example, some people may not realize that a self-prescribed baby aspirin will counteract negatively with prescription blood thinners.
Make a list of your concerns – Begin jotting down notes several days before the visit. It may take time to remember everything. Prioritize your list and consider scheduling back-to-back appointments or a follow-up visit if you have more concerns than can be discussed during one visit. Consider faxing the list to the doctor ahead of time and bring an extra copy with you to the visit so he or she can follow along.
Bring a paper and pencil with you – Appointments can fly by, and it’s easy to miss important information. In fact, studies show that anxious patients forget 93% of what their doctor says to them. By writing down key terms and phrases, you can educate yourself later at home.
Speak up – Due to short appointment times issues get prioritized. You may find that your major concern is not on the top of the doctor’s list. Tell the doctor. This visit is your time.
Ask questions – If the doctor’s instructions are unclear, ask. A doctor’s recommendations are only as valuable as the patient’s interest and ability to put them into place. If the individual you are caring for will not swallow pills, for example, ask if the medication can be put into food. If a specific sleep aid causes your loved to be clumsy and at risk for falls, ask if a different medication can be prescribed. Ask if physical therapy, art therapy or music therapy will increase your loved one's quality of life and can be prescribed.